Backyard Theaters are a trend that's been picking up steam in recent years, and for good reason: Families have really been taking advantage of ways to "take the indoors outdoors," and having your own movie screen in your backyard can be a crowning achievement. While the idea might seem complicated or expensive, it certainly can be, but it hardly has to be. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the communal cinematic experience of "Movies in the Park" or an old-school Drive-In right in the comfort and freedom of your own backyard. My friends at The Walt Disney Company asked if I'd be up for starting a backyard screening series right here at Rock Father HQ, and to be honest - it was something I was already looking into doing, so when they offered to provide some tools for the kick-off, those plans got rolling fast, with a screening to celebrate the home release of ZOOTOPIA in-mind. But first, I needed a trial run.
On the first-ever episode of Disney Infinity NEXT, the makers of Disney Infinity 3.0 made a promise that the lifecycle of the 3.0 Starter Packs would be extended, and that there will be more content than ever coming to Disney Infinity this year. Just-announced is the MARVEL Battlegrounds Play Set (out March 15), which brings the brawling genre into Disney Infinity for the very first time. All that and more can be seen in the Spring 2016 edition of Disney Infinity NEXT...
I'm telling you something right now: Disney's ZOOTOPIA is about to be HUGE. Over the past few months, I've been fairly ZOOTOPIA-immersed (they made me an official resident), having once again paid a visit to Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank where I met with Directors Byron Howard (BOLT, TANGLED) and Rich Moore (WRECK-IT RALPH), along with Producer Clark Spencer (WINNIE THE POOH) and much of the key creative team for an inside look at the studio's 55th feature-length animated film. Last week, my wife and I also treated The Rock Daughters to an early screening of the film, and in the days that followed, something remarkable happened... they declared it "Better than FROZEN," with our oldest deeming it her "favorite film so-far," and already noting that when she does her back-to-school chalkboard in the Fall, ZOOTOPIA will replace FROZEN as her film of choice. The kids have spoken, and that's all I need. While ZOOTOPIA by itself is a very special film (and one I will review in detail later), in Chicago's far North Suburbs, just minutes from Rock Father HQ is a very special place to see it - the Marcus Gurnee Cinema at Gurnee Mills. This theatre is home to one of just two 4DX theaters in the United States (the other is in L.A.), and to celebrate a one-week special engagement of ZOOTOPIA 4DX, the folks at CJ 4DX have teamed-up with THE ROCK FATHER Magazine for a very special Prize Pack Giveaway. The trick is, this one is limited to readers in Illinois and Wisconsin... folks within the region of the Marcus Gurnee Cinema and their 4DX screen! Learn about 4DX and enter to win below!
For Walt Disney Animation Studios' ZOOTOPIA, there was an entirely new set of challenges created by the sheer size and scope of the film. In fact, nothing about ZOOTOPIA was "business as usual," because unlike other "talking animal" movies that we've seen in the past, this film was done with great attention to both detail and scale. When I met with the filmmakers, there was a lot of talk about how the city itself had to be able to accommodate different sizes of animals (like a subway that serves mice and elephants), as well as consideration given to how different species would move, should they begin walking upright on two legs. With so many elements at play, Art Director of Characters (and fellow MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE enthusiast) Cory Loftis, and a team of animators had to design over 1,000 unique characters, and during a visit to Disney Animation's temporary campus, he took our press group through a little bit of the process... and gave us a lesson in drawing the Ginnifer Goodwin-voiced Judy Hopps.
In a warehouse in North Hollywood, something interesting has been happening. There, behind the bland and unassuming exterior, Walt Disney Animation Studios has sprung to life in a temporary location that once housed the Disney Imagineering department - the result of a massive renovation taking place at the famed Roy E. Disney Animation Building in Burbank. Within the largely open space, work continued through late January on ZOOTOPIA, the 55th feature from the studio, and one that's been gaining fans well before release - due in large part to a slow-moving sloth with a really big smile. After meeting with Directors Byron Howard (BOLT, TANGLED) and Rich Moore (WRECK-IT RALPH), along with Producer Clark Spencer (WINNIE THE POOH) for a sneak-preview over at the Disney Studios lot, I was invited to take a closer look at the development of the film with some of the key players behind-the-scenes.